A clear differentiation is happening among
the medley of water brands in terms of both pricing and positioning. While Bisleri is
touting itself as ''pure and safe,'' brands like Bailey, Yes, and Hello are trying to ride
the mineral water wave. And Evian, launched by French transnational Danone sells itself as
''water from the French Alps'' competing with premium soft drinks. The fact however
remains that almost all players in this category are positioning themselves on the purity
and hygiene platforms since the very raison d'tre of bottled drinking water is the bad
quality of tap water in the country. In this scenario how will Mr. Chauhan differentiate
Bisleri from the others and, more importantly, for how long?
Mr. Chauhan has been trying to differentiate
Bisleri by its breakaway seal as an assurance of purity. As he says almost 76 per cent of
consumption of bottled drinking water happens in transit. Market research conducted by
Bisleri revealed that the other overriding concern for this set of buyers is the tampering
of the seal and the reuse of bottles. Many have witnessed used bottles being refilled at
railway stations. So when a consumer buys mineral water, he would like to be assured that
the water has not been tampered with.
At the same time Bisleri is promoted by an aggressive print-and-TV backed by hoardings and
point-of-sale material. Every interface with the consumer is being used as an opportunity
to reinforce the message. For instance, all vehicles used for supply have been painted in
bright blue, bear the Bisleri logo and sport catchy baselines like drink and
Apart from creating consumer pull with an advertising campaign, Mr. Chauhan is boosting
the retail push as well. Says a local marketer of a brand, strong in the institutional
segment, toying with the idea of going retail, "Distribution is the key. The consumer
will pick up whatever is conveniently available and is pushed by the retailer.
Mr. Chauhan says that from his vast
experience of marketing Gold Spot and Thums Up, he learnt that distribution plays a
crucial role in the successful marketing of bottled drinks. He says, "Just about
anybody can invest money into a bottling plant or other facilities. The really dirty work
is distribution. Making fresh water available within a particular period of time is
crucial for its success."
His strategy is to build a direct
distribution system at an all-India level. According to him, distribution in the Indian
context requires experience. Bisleris retail distribution muscle is indeed great.
With 16 bottling plants to churn out the product, Bisleri has around 80,000 outlets in the
country with about 12,000 each in the metros of New Delhi and Mumbai. Mr. Chauhan intends
to increase that to 10 lakh outlets and use around 2,000 trucks to criss-cross the nation,
up from the current 1000.
With little belief in the distributor system,
the company leverages its large fleet of trucks to supply bottled water directly to
retailers through a system called route selling where the driver of the truck
is trained to be a service person. A critical component, this system, according to him,
ensures that the water supplied is fresh and bottles are in good shape. Though route
selling is more expensive than the more commonly followed method of appointing
distributors in different towns, he says, it is more effective.
reach with plants and packaging
It is obvious that reach
holds the key to the market. With 16 plants at 14 locations across the country (except the east), he is
planning double capacities at all of them to 200 million cases a day. For this he plans to
invest at least Rs 60 crore to upgrade facilities. By the year 2002, he hopes to increase
Bisleris reach five-fold to almost 2,500 towns and cities and will pump Rs 200 crore
into the Bisleri brand. These measures, he hopes, will give Bisleri a market share of more
than 85 per cent by the year 2002.
At the same time he is pursuing a multi-pack and multi-price
strategy. Today Bisleri offers 7 packaging options; a 250-ml cup and bottles in 500 ml,
1-litre, 2-litre, 5-litre, 12-litre and 20-litre packs. The 1-litre bottle accounts for
nearly 50 per cent of the sales, with the 2-litre bottle taking up 20 per cent of the
sales. The remaining sizes share the balance. Not only does he plan to make the basic
pack-sizes available all over the country, he has also decided to create greater variety
in packaging. With innovation in packaging being a key, the company has introduced a new
category, the 12-litre pack in water-scarce city of Chennai and this has proved
Mr. Chauhan is also pursuing a price strategy
and is confident that with the growth in volumes he will be able to bring down the prices.
He feels that Bisleri is priced to benefit volume purchase. For instance while the 1-litre
bottle is priced at Rs 10, the 2-litre bottle is priced at Rs 15 (Rs 7.50 per litre), the
5-litre pack at Rs 20 ( Rs 4 per litre) and the 20-litre pack at 70 (Rs 3.50 per litre).
While on the one hand he feels that the 500ml
and the 250ml packs are the growth area of the future, he is also targeting the household
segment with the large pack sizes. Households, he says, in certain parts of the country
spend a huge amount of money on fuel in order to purify water. For instance, in the
water-scarce south, people spend large sums of money to buy water and still more to purify
it. With the runaway hit of its new 12-litre product in some cities of the south, the
company is finding it difficult to meet the demands of these markets.
Mr. Chauhan attributes the sudden spurt in
the growth of the bottled water industry, to growing awareness levels caused by increased
promotional activities by the industry players. This is probably the first time that
mineral water is being pushed so aggressively on the television. He feels that Bisleri
itself is responsible in a large way for the growing popularity of the product. And he may
well be right. The Bisleri brand does have tremendous recall in the consumer mindscape
and, in some places, is used as a generic name for bottled water.
According to him Parle and other mineral
water brands have been the beneficiaries of the bad quality of municipal tap water and
rising consumer awareness due to increasing stridency of water filter companies. He
believes that his major competitors are not other mineral water brands but the innumerable
branded water filters, which have flooded the market. This perhaps explains his recent
brush with Eureka Forbes, which took Parle Bisleri to court over what it alleged were
offensive advertisements by the company showing the Eureka Forbes water filter, Aquaguard,
in poor light.
Mr. Chauhans expectations from the
mineral water market may be too high as 70 per cent of the mineral water consumed in this
country is by travelers and even here soft drinks are strong competitors. In the household
segment, he will have to compete against the traditional methods of purifying water, the
water filters like the Aqua Guard from Eureka Forbes, which he claims are partly
responsible for success of mineral water brands.
On the other hand perhaps he
is right. Distribution will ultimately drive brand success, at least for national level
brands. Also, currently local/regional brands seem to be
moving off the shelves. With Bisleri becoming a generic name for bottled drinking water,
if he can manage the distribution of the product to make it available where the consumer
needs it the most, he may well succeed in his gamble with water!